The Shmooze

Six Degrees of Tour de France

By Raphael Mostel

Getty Images

It turns out that the world’s most famous bicycle race, the Tour de France, has an unlikely origin: It was a direct result of the notorious Dreyfus Affair.

The slightly condensed, rather confusing story goes something like this: When pro-Dreyfus Émile Loubet became president of the French Republic in 1899, he was attacked (and beaten on the head with a walking stick) by the passionately anti-Dreyfus Count de Dion, one of France’s major bicycle and auto manufacturers. De Dion was jailed for the attack, and the resulting scandal was featured prominently in the then-major daily sports paper Le Vélo (The Bike), whose editor, Pierre Giffard, was just as passionately pro-Dreyfus.

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